War tour opens student’s eyes

Jonathan Banks.
Jonathan Banks.

Jonathan was one of 22 students who went to Malaysia as part of the Premier’s Anzac Student Tour (PAST) this year, visiting the states of Sabah and Labuan which were both significant among Australia’s World War II campaigns.

He was chosen for the tour after he wrote an essay about a local World War II digger, Private Percival Gratwick, of Katanning, who won the Victoria Cross for his service in Libya and Egypt.

Jonathan said it had been amazing to follow in the footsteps of soldiers in Malaysia, gaining a greater appreciation of what they went through.

‘All stories of war are very sad things, but actually being there and walking in their footsteps and learning about the tragedy that happened really brought it all to life and amplified the knowledge and understanding of the legacy there,’ he said.

‘I’ve always been interested in Australia’s war stories, but after travelling, I’ve become a lot more interested in the political side of it.

‘But the main outcome for me was a greater understanding of how it happened, and having a further capacity to commemorate it, and to realise the sacrifices that were made for us.’

Part of the tour included an Anzac Day service at Sandakan in Borneo, where Australian and other Allied soldiers had been forced on a Death March to Ranau, in the island’s interior.

Having returned to Perth, Jonathan said he was hoping to pass on his experiences to other students at Willetton, and had plans to speak to several RSL clubs as well.